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Sex and race don't predict Net use – study

So much for the 'Digital Divide'

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Half the adults in America still have no access to the Internet, and nearly sixty percent of that group have no interest in getting wired in future, a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reveals.

Only a piddling twelve per cent of those lacking Internet access report that they definitely intend to get connected in future.

Age is the most important factor aside from income, with wily greybeards scoffing openly at all the New Economy hype. Fully seventy-four per cent of those over age fifty who are not currently on line say they have better things to do than get access to the Net. More than half say the Internet is dangerous or that there is nothing worthwhile in cyberspace, and nearly forty per cent say that whatever the Net might offer is not worth the expense.

People's social habits, or lack thereof, also affect their interest in cyberspace. Loners and paranoiacs, the study confirms, are definitely not into the Internet.

"Those who do not use the Internet are less 'networked' in their social lives, less trusting, and more concerned about their privacy being breached. These traits suggest that non-users as a group have a higher level of concern about interacting with others and fewer contacts with others," the study notes.

One of the Project's most interesting findings is that sex and race have almost no relevance to Internet use when age and income are taken into account.

Among US households earning more than $75,000, seventy-eight per cent of Whites, seventy-five percent of Hispanics, and sixty-nine per cent of Blacks are on line.

Conversely, among households earning less than $30,000, seventy-five per cent of Blacks, seventy-four per cent of Hispanics, and sixty-eight per cent of Whites are not on line.

The numbers look a good deal different when income is omitted. Nationwide, fifty per cent of Whites, forty-four percent of Hispanics, and thirty-six per cent of Blacks have Internet access.

Age and income are clearly the most important predictors of Internet addiction. Obviously, there is damn little anyone can do about people's ages, so if it really is a national goal, as touted endlessly and vehemently by the Clinton Administration, to get every American wired to the Net, then it would seem that the income gap among Blacks and Hispanics would be the best place to start making a few 'adjustments'.

Fat chance, we know, but there it is. ®

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